If you have read Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s most popular work in high school, The Little Prince, you might still remember the big, voracious trees that threatened to consume whole planets if left unattended. They were called baobabs and the Little Prince made sure to watch out for signs that these giants would not get anywhere near his planet or his rose.
But outside the fictional world, baobabs are actually the ones becoming endangered.
In June 2018, a study was published by the scientific journal Nature Plants; it stated simply that the baobabs are dying. The scientists involved do not know why, but they suspect increased drought and climate change. For decades, villagers in Botswana have witnessed the depletion of baobabs because of human encroachment—cattle grazing and farmland have taken over areas once roamed by hunter-gatherers.
The introduction of agriculture and changes to the soil have produced a negative effect on the trees. These trees, which are some of the oldest on the planet, are rooted so solidly into the African horizon, they appear invincible, as if the sun couldn’t set without the silhouettes of their gnarly branches reshaping the line where land meets sky.
(Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)